The St Marys watershed is one of Georgia’s 14 major watersheds. The St Marys River rises in the Okefenokee Swamp in Charlton and Ware counties, Georgia. It flows circuitously eastward for 125 miles, forming part of the boundary between Georgia and Florida. Read a Paddling Guide to the St. Marys River. Read a Paddling Guide to the Okefenokee Swamp
See all of Georgia’s 14 Major Watersheds
The St Marys Watershed System
The St Marys River rises in the Okefenokee Swamp in Charlton and Ware counties, Georgia, at an elevation between 110 and 120 feet. It flows circuitously eastward about 125 miles, forming part of the boundary between Georgia and Florida, and empties into the Atlantic Ocean through Cumberland Sound. There are no major tributaries. Minor tributaries are Middle Prong, Cedar Creek, South Prong, Spanish Creek, Little St Marys River and North Prong. Beginning near the headwaters, the river is a narrow, winding stream with an average width of 100 feet. It widens to about 600 feet at Traders Hill, Georgia, and to about 1,200 feet at St. Marys, Georgia.
How the St Marys River Got Its Name
The name comes from a Spanish mission, Santa Maria de Guadeloupe, located near the river. The mission was founded in 1568 by Pedro Menendez de Avilles, founder of St. Augustine in Florida. Previously, during the French exploration in 1562, Captain Jean Ribault called it the Seine. The Indians called the river Thalthlothlaguphka, a name that translates to rotten fish.
St Marys Watershed Experiences
Listed below are locations where you can see or experience the St Marys watershed.
Located on the south bank of the Crooked River, this park offers fine facilities in a beautiful setting. The boat ramp is popular with anglers who often take to the water before sunrise. Visitors may venture to the nearby ruins of the tabby McIntosh Sugar Works mill, built around 1825. The mill was later used as a starch factory during the Civil War. Just down the road is the ferry to Cumberland Island.
The St Marys Watershed Connection: Crooked River is not really a river but is instead a tidal creek that extends only a short distance west of I-95 and US 17. It lies between the Satilla River to the north and the St. Marys River to the south and is part of the great estuarine system of rivers, tidal creeks, marshes and barrier islands that make up the Georgia coast.
This is a recreation of the 1800s homestead of Obediah Barber, a man known as “King of the Okefenokee.” The authentic homestead includes approximately 30 exhibits such as a cabin, sugarcane mill, potato house, turpentine exhibit, moonshine still and livestock barn.
The name “Okefenokee” is the white man’s rendition of the Indian words meaning “Land of the Trembling Earth.” Only 5 percent of the Okefenokee is solid ground. The rest is a vast bog inside a huge, saucer-shaped depression that was once part of the ocean floor. The swamp now lies 103 to 128 feet above sea level. Peat moss grows in clumps throughout the swamp, and the clumps are so unstable that a person of average size can shake nearby trees and bushes by stomping the surface. Established in 1937, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge encompasses approximately 396,000 acres. It is one of the oldest and most well-preserved freshwater areas in America.
Okefenokee Swamp Park is a Disney-esque educational experience for the first-time visitor to the magnificent Okefenokee Swamp. The entry fees to the privately operated park allow visitors access to boardwalks, the Nature Center and animal habitats. Boat tours are available for an additional fee.